Everything in the medical gadgets world is undergoing significant changes and transformation whether we take the example of the new Implanon or the Rheo Knee. Now, it’s the turn of DNA. The researchers claim that they have found a second code in DNA in addition to the genetic code. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute in Israel and Jonathan Widom of Northwestern University in Illinois and their colleagues describe the new code in the current issue of Nature. The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself. What the researchers claim, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell.
Studying the brain is not a new thing but studying the neurons and how they respond to the environment and experience is no doubt a new concept. The more the animal is exposed to shapes, objects and light, the better it can perceive them. Well, the researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have succeeded in studying the brain and the action of genes that shapes it. Here is an abstract from the press release… “This work represents a technological breakthrough,” said first author Kuan Hong Wang, a research scientist at the Picower Institute who will launch his own laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in the fall. “This is the first study that demonstrates the ability to directly visualize the molecular activity of individual neurons in the brain of live animals at a single-cell resolution, and to observe the changes in the activity in the same neurons in response to the changes of the environment on a daily basis for a week.” The study exploited the power of two-photon microscopy (so-called because it uses two infrared photons to emit fluorescence in tissue), which allows imaging of living tissue up to 1 millimeter deep, enough for researchers to see proteins expressed within individual neurons within the brain. They then created a mouse model in which a coding portion of the Arc gene was replaced with a jellyfish gene encoding a green fluorescent protein (GFP). Neural activities that normally activate the Arc gene then activated the GFP, leaving a fluorescent trace detectable by two-photon microscopy. The genetically engineered mice were let loose in an environment containing a cylinder covered with stripes of vertical or horizontal lines, and the proteins in their brains were monitored as the mice saw the cylinders daily. This advance, coupled with other brain disease models, could “offer unparalleled advantages in understanding pathological processes in real time, leading to potential new drugs and treatments for a host of neurological diseases and mental disorders,” said Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, a co-author of the study.
Now, this is a real challenge for the experts in medical industry. X Prize, a non-profit organization, has initiated an offer named X Prize offer that will pay a huge sum of $10 million to the first medical team that will process genetic codes of 100 people in just 10 days. Mind that such technology hasn’t been developed yet and might take 5 more years to come. The process called rapid genome sequencing maps out the genetic codes that helps the doctors to predict the genetic future. I have no doubt that someone will certainly win this $10 million prize.